Lois Smith's Steamy Screen Test With James Dean Is Racking Up YouTube Views

The 86-year-old actress recently shared a tender moment with Jon Hamm in 'Marjorie Prime,' but a clip of her mugging with Dean 63 years ago for 'East of Eden' is regaining attention online.
Warner Bros. Pictures/Photofest; Monica Schipper/WireImage
Lois Smith and James Dean in 'East of Eden' (Inset: Smith present-day)

Actress Lois Smith, 86, is getting some of the best reviews of her 65-year career for her role in Marjorie Prime, in which she shares romantically tender screen time with Mad Men's Jon Hamm, 46 (Hamm plays an AI robot programmed with memories of Smith's character's deceased husband).

But Smith is also getting a bit of attention for a screen test she did 63 years ago, for her role in East of Eden. The three-and-a-half-minute silent clip, showing Smith and co-star James Dean dreamily mugging together for the camera, has been viewed some 35,000 times since being uploaded to YouTube.

"It was an improvisation as they tested which kind of film system they were going to use," she recalls of the scene. "It was an odd rehearsal. I don't remember much about it except that Dean was so remarkably good. I didn't know him before we worked together, but he was awfully good."

But when it comes to her favorite onscreen love interest, it’s none other than Hamm. “He’s a lovely person,” says Smith. “To arrive fully prepared, having and knowing what he’s doing, being original and wonderful, it’s all you could ask for in an acting partner.”

As for who she would pick as her next leading man, the single actress who lives in New York doesn’t hesitate: “How about Morgan Freeman?” 

A version of this story first appeared in the Sept. 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.